Friday, January 17, 2014

Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage over Fried Polenta

This is officially one of the best meals I have ever cooked. It was so good. So, so good. Creamy, filling, comforting. Total perfection. The sauce is hearty and booming with flavor, and that's even before adding the parmesan cheese, which takes it totally over the top in smell, richness, and taste. And I'm fairly obsessed with polenta. The place my friends and I go to for our weekly happy hour has a jalapeno polenta pizza on the menu and it's probably safe to say I order it two weeks out of three. Polenta is so fluffy and delicious, so when I saw the idea to top it with a spicy Italian sausage sauce, I was sold. Even better, this all came together in barely over half an hour. I think the part that took the longest was removing the casing from the sausage, and that was no big deal at all.

I adapted this a little from the original recipe that I was working from. That called for two Italian chicken sausages and one regular Italian sausage. I couldn't justify buying two different sausages and using only one or two links from each package for this recipe, so I went with all chicken sausage and used all four links in the package. More economical, and a little healthier. I also left out the sun-dried tomatoes that the original recipe called for. I don't love their texture, and definitely don't think the dish suffered from not having them. Made the way I did it, this is 8 Weight Watchers Points Plus if you make it into five servings. I had planned for it to be 4 servings at 10 PP each, but cutting the polenta into 10 slices worked better. Divided into five servings it was still a good amount of food, but if you're not worried about points, then obviously feel free to help yourself to a bit more!

You really need to make this. Soon. I made it for dinner Tuesday night and by the time the dishes were washed I was already looking forward to having some leftovers for lunch the next day. And I'm happily eating leftovers again as I type this. It's that good! I already had blog posts planned for the majority of the remainder of this month, but I had to bump what I had planned for today because I couldn't wait any longer to blog about this. I can definitely see this becoming a regular addition to my easy meal repertoire and I hope you like it as much as I do!

Italian Chicken Sausage over Fried Polenta
Recipe adapted slightly from Willow Bird Baking

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 links spicy Italian chicken sausage (I got mine at Trader Joe's and I think the package was 12 oz. total)
1 cup onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, divided
1 tube cooked polenta (Mine was from Trader Joe's and was 18 oz.)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to a large saucepan over medium-high heat. If your sausage has casings, remove them and crumble the sausage into the pan. Brown it for a few minutes, then add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until tender. Add the garlic and cook for just 30 seconds or so before adding the tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes, and wine. Be sure to scrape up any sausage bits off the bottom of the pan to get all that flavor into the sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil before reducing the heat and allowing it to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the mixture is simmering, heat the other 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Slice the polenta into even slices, about half an inch thick or just slightly under that. I got 10 slices out of my 18 oz. tube. Once the pan is hot, add the slices of polenta, frying them for a few minutes on one side until they're starting to brown. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and then flip over, adding salt and pepper to the other side. Cook for a few minutes, then sprinkle them with a little Parmesan cheese. Remove them to your serving plate.

While the second side of the polenta is cooking, stir 1/4 cup of basil and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese into the sausage and tomato sauce. Cook for 5 more minutes before spooning the mixture over the fried polenta. Sprinkle with the remaining basil and Parmesan, and serve.

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